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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Four US Girls, Including Qualifier Lahey, Reach Round of 16 at US Open Junior Championships; Oliel Saves Match Point, Beats Second Seed De Minaur

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Stylish tennis could not be a goal Tuesday during the second round of the US Open Junior Championships, with winds sustained at 15 mph and gusting even higher making every ball toss and racquet swing an adventure.  Four of the seven US girls on the schedule managed to work through the challenges, however, advancing to Thursday's round of 16.

Qualifier Ashley Lahey faced wild card Natasha Subhash in the only all-American match of the second round, with Lahey earning a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Lahey, who did request a main draw wild card but did not receive one, admitted to being a bundle of nerves in the final round of qualifying Saturday, before recovering for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over ITF No. 42 Zhima Du of China.

"I was all over the place," said the 16-year-old Lahey, who has enrolled in Pepperdine, and attended classes for a few days before flying to New York to compete in her first junior slam. "In the first set, I was missing balls all over, thinking, well, ok, it was a nice trip, I'm ready to go home now. All the USTA coaches were there, my Pepperdine coach, my mom, and they were all really into it, and the crowd got into it. I just competed my butt off, found a way to struggle through, get my game back together. Afterward, I started crying so hard, it was so emotional."

After a 6-3, 6-2 first round win Monday over Lucie Kankova of the Czech Republic, Lahey had to make adjustments when facing even windier conditions this morning, with her warmup being especially difficult.

"I was going crazy, because I really wanted to feel the ball before this big match," said Lahey. "You always feel better when you come out confident, having had a good warmup. I was hitting with Elysia Bolton and we were both shanking the ball all over the place, and I was about to cry."

Lahey regained her composure and once the match started, she made very few errors considering the conditions.

"When I went out, I was kind of in the zone, ready to deal with whatever came my way, ready to figure it out," said Lahey, who several years ago moved with her mother from Colorado to Carson, California to train with the USTA there. "I was ready to deal with anything, whether the ball would blow to the left, the right, into me, away from me, and it did. But I just told myself to keep moving your feet, keep moving your feet, get into position. And I think it affected her a little bit more than it did me."

Lahey, who was out nearly a year in total with injuries to one foot, then the other, went to Europe this summer with her mother, a trip that was primarily a vacation for the two of them before Ashley went off to college.

"We were going to have one last great summer together in Europe, we'll play a couple tournaments, just for fun, so I had something to do, and then we'll do all the touristy stuff," Lahey said. "I went and played that Grade 1 (in Offenbach, Germany) and I was hoping to lose in the semifinals, because there was a $25K in Montpelier France that I really wanted to go to. I think because I wanted to lose, I had no pressure, I was just swinging for the fences, and I played the best tennis of my life.  I ended up making it to the finals, played an unreal match against (French Open champion) Rebeka Masarova. It was super close, there was a big crowd, every point was a total battle, 40 balls long, and I think we were both playing our best tennis."

Lahey lost 6-0, 5-7, 7-5, but she and Masarova became friends, and Lahey went on to make the semifinals in the following week's Grade 1 in Germany and the final of a Grade 2 in Switzerland. Those results brought Lahey's ITF junior ranking from the mid-300s to 71, good enough to get into the US Open qualifying.

No. 4 seed Amanda Anisimova is another junior who had an impressive summer in Europe, reaching the French Open girls final and the third round at Wimbledon.  Anisimova, who turned 15 a week ago, also had a win in the women's US Open qualifying last month, beating Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 6-3, 6-4 before falling in the next round to Eri Hozumi of Japan in a third set tiebreaker.

"That was an amazing experience," said Anisimova. "Playing my first pro tournament and having it be the US Open was just amazing. Getting through the first round, I loved the experience and the atmosphere was so great. The girl I played in the first round was really good, Top 150, and it gave me confidence knowing I could play pros like that."

Anisimova's 6-3, 6-2 win over Chihiro Muramatsu of Japan emphasized the pro style game she possesses. Although the wind made for a high number of unforced errors (32), and Anisimova is suffering from a cold and not at her best physically, she still hit 25 winners to Muramatsu's 2. Some power players need pace to feel comfortable, but Anisimova has no trouble generating her own.

"I actually like to play players like that because it lets me be aggressive, and I can take time on the ball," said Anisimova.

As for the wind, Anisimova was able to take the advice of USTA coach Erik Kortland.  "The weather conditions are tough, but I always know how to play tactically," said Anisimova, who also works with coach Nick Saviano, as well as her parents. "My coach tells me to go for big targets and put extra spin on my serve, so that helped me today."

No. 8 seed Sonya Kenin advanced with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Mira Antonitsch of Austria to set up a round of 16 match with Lahey on Thursday, while Taylor Johnson, who took out No. 6 seed Amina Anshba of Russia Monday, followed that up with a 6-4, 6-4 win over German qualifier Irina Cantos Siemers.  Johnson will play Andrianjafitrimo of France, who took out No. 10 seed and ITF Grade 1 College Park champion Claire Liu 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.  Anismova will play No. 13 seed Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia in the third round. Kuzmova, seeded by virtue of her WTA ranking of 295, beat Canada Grade 1 champion Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia defeated wild card Nicole Mossmer 6-3, 6-3 in a rain interrupted match, setting up a third round meeting with Great Britain's Katie Swan. Swan defeated College Park finalist Xiyu Wang of China 6-2, 7-5.

Seven US girls will play their second round matches on Wednesday: qualifier Hailey Baptiste, No. 9 seed Usue Arconada, No. 16 seed Alexandra Sanford, lucky loser Vanessa Ong, No. 5 seed Kayla Day, qualifier Kylie McKenzie, and wild card Carson Branstine.

The girls draw is here.

The surprise result of the eight boys second round singles matches played Tuesday was Yshai Oliel's 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(2) win over No. 2 seed and Wimbledon boys finalist Alex De Minaur of Australia. The 16-year-old from Israel faced a match point serving at 4-5 in the third, but saved it in a tense rally.

"It was long rally and after like 20 shots, he missed it," said the 2016 French Open boys doubles champion. "I was very solid and in a lot of pressure, I get more balls into the court to see what happens and he just missed it."

Oliel has been identified as the next great Israeli player since he won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s back in 2012, and it's a designation he's ambivalent about.

"I like it and I don't like it," the left-hander said of the amount of attention he receives in his home country. "It gives me more confidence and the will to play good, to say to everybody I'm good player, that I can try my best in every match to be tough, never give up in a game, and I think that's what I did today. I got a lot of messages today and I very like that people love me, appreciate what I do for Israel and myself. I hope to do good results for all my country."

De Minaur was one of two boys seeds to fall on Tuesday, with No. 8 seed Genaro Olivieri of Argentina going out to Italian qualifier Riccardo Balzerani of Italy 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Blake Ellis of Australia 6-2, 7-5.

US boys went 0-4 on Tuesday, with No. 5 seed and College Park champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia beating Brandon Holt 7-5, 6-2, No. 13 seed Nicola Kuhn of Spain defeating Sam Riffice 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, No. 12 seed Youssef Hossam of Egypt downing qualifier Alafia Ayeni 6-3, 6-2 and No. 14 seed Marvin Moeller beating wild card Alexandre Rotsaert 6-2, 6-3.

Four US boys will be in action in Wednesday's second round: JJ Wolf, Sebastian Korda, qualifier Patrick Kypson and No. 3 seed Ulises Blanch.

The boys singles draw is here.

The first round of doubles was completed today, with the top seeds, Ulises Blanch and Japan's Yosuke Watanuki, losing to wild cards Sean Sculley and Nick Stachowiak 6-4, 2-6, 10-8.  The day's second rain delay came with the match tiebreaker at 2-2 and when the players returned, Sculley and Stachowiak won three straight points.  But Blanch and Watanuki when three straight points and at the change of ends it was 6-6.  With a minibreak the previous point, Watanuki had the match on his racquet at 8-7 but he lost both of his serves and Stachowiak and Sculley, the Kalamazoo 18s doubles finalists, closed it out on their first opportunity.

Kalamazoo champions JJ Wolf and John McNally, seeded No. 5, did not advance to the second round, dropping their match to Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan 6-1, 6-7(6), 10-7.

The boys doubles draw is here.

After top seeds Olesya Pervushina and Potapova were defeated in the first round yesterday by wild cards Ena Shibahara and Jada Hart, there was another upset today.  When Caty McNally (playing with Subhash) had to withdraw due to her ankle sprain on Monday, Ann Li and Baptiste got into the draw as alternates.  Today Baptiste and Li defeated No. 2 seed Anshba and Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine 6-2, 3-6, 10-7.

The girls doubles draw is here.